Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposed by the Trump Administration includes $25.4 billion for foreign assistance programs. The budget cuts funding to USAID and the State Department by up to 30 percent and proposes combining the two entities into one agency. This budget cut could severely impair the two agencies’ ability to finance foreign aid in 2018.
The planned $25.4 billion budget for foreign aid in 2018 spending will be split between nine categories:
- Peace and security ($7.7 billion)
- Health ($6.9 billion)
- Humanitarian assistance ($5.3 billion)
- Democracy, human rights and governance ($1.6 billion)
- Program management ($1.4 billion)
- Economic development ($1.3 billion)
- Education and social services ($601.7 million)
- Multi-sector ($363.8 million)
- Environment ($251.7 million)
Peace and security encompasses spending that helps foreign nations build stability and respond to arising national security threats. Of the allotted $7.7 billion, almost $6 billion will go to stabilization operations and security sector reform. The largest planned benefactor of peace and security spending is Israel — the territory will receive an estimated $3.1 billion.
Health spending funds expansion of basic health services and targets global health crises like HIV/AIDS. This budget is specifically focused on improving the health of vulnerable populations in developing countries. The majority of the proposed health budget will be given to programs to fight HIV/AIDS — $4.98 billion will go to this cause. Sub-Saharan African nations will benefit the most from health aid. South Africa will receive $300 million, Mozambique will receive $225 million and Tanzania will receive $470 million.
Funding for democracy, human rights and governance strengthens and solidifies democratic institutions in recipient nations and moves them toward democratic consolidation. Afghanistan will receive an estimated $430 million, with $342.1 million planned for good governance funding, $56.3 million planned for rule of law and human rights and $21.8 million planned for civil society. Other countries that will benefit from this aid are Ukraine, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.
Economic development facilitates rapid, widespread and sustainable economic growth in recipient countries. The $1.3 billion will be divided amongst agriculture, infrastructure, trade and investment, macroeconomic foundations for growth and economic opportunity. Jordan is projected to be the largest economic development aid recipient — the country is slated to receive $397.4 million.
Education and social services fund formal and non-formal education services with a focus on reforming factors that contribute to poverty and exclusion. Programs connect citizens with opportunities that encourage civic participation. Ultimately, education and social services projects aim to increase recipient countries’ self-reliance and combat chronic poverty. More than half this budget — $377.9 million — will go to providing basic education. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jordan will be three of the largest benefactors, receiving $105 million, $61.2 million and $55 million respectively.
Environmental spending supports sustainable usage and growth of natural resources and conserves biodiversity. Vietnam is projected to receive the largest amount of environmental funding — $15 million in aid. Bangladesh and the Philippines follow with $12 million and $11.25 million respectively. The proposed environmental budget has fallen from a high of $1.77 billion spent in FY 2016.
In September, legislators rejected the Trump administration cuts, with bipartisan support for a spending bill that instead gives additional financing to foreign aid in 2018. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a $51 billion budget for FY 2018 to fund the State Department, foreign aid and related projects. This is almost $11 billion more than Trump’s proposal requested.
Additionally, senators passed an amendment that overturns the Trump administration’s efforts to defund international programs that provide access to women’s reproductive care and family planning. The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted to maintain $10 million for the U.N. climate change agency, though the proposed Trump budget would eliminate this spending.
Currently, foreign aid makes up approximately 1 percent of the U.S. budget. However, public opinion polls indicate that the majority of Americans believe foreign assistance is closer to 25 percent of yearly spending. Despite this misconception, polling over the past 25 years indicates that 75 percent of Americans support funding for foreign aid.
Foreign assistance has created tangible results. The eradication of smallpox and a 50 percent reduction in infant and child mortality can be credited to foreign aid programs. Additionally, aid has lifted more than one billion people out of extreme poverty.
Foreign assistance is a crucial driving factor behind international poverty reduction. Fortunately, recent legislative pushback against the Trump administration’s budget proposal indicates that these drastic cuts to foreign aid in 2018 are unlikely to be enacted.
– Katherine Parks